Junior welterweight contender Jessie Vargas remained unbeaten with a wide unanimous decision over previously undefeated Russian Anton Novikov in the co-featured bout of the Brandon Rios-Diego Chaves card on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Vargas, a 25-year-old Las Vegas resident, won by scores of 118-111 (twice) and 117-111 to retain his WBA “regular” title in a nip-and-tuck boxing match that was far more competitive than the official scorecards indicate. [Editor's note: RingTV.com and THE RING Magazine only recognize Danny Garcia as the WBA titleholder.]
Vargas (25-0, 9 knockouts) was the busier boxer early in the HBO-televised fight. THE RING’s No. 8-rated junior welterweight worked his jab which set up clean right hands and he utilized lateral movement that off-set greater size and strength of Novikov, who put on 17.5 pounds after the Friday’s weigh-in to enter Saturday’s bout as a middleweight.
However, Novikov (29-1, 10 KOs), a 26-year-old native of Kopeysk, Russia, who trained at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles, gradually imposed his aggressive style on Vargas during the middle rounds. The rugged southpaw threw and landed more punches, often scoring with his left to Vargas’ body and head. The two were tit for tat in the late rounds.
Most observers viewed the fight as a toss-up, believing that either junior welterweight could have won the match by a point or two.